Kansas Central Railway
Leavenworth, Kansas and Western Railway
(L.K. & W.)

>>>  Route of the Kansas Central Railway across Riley County in 1881  <<<

One of the original signs from the Leonardville Depot


Short History of the Railroad

The Kansas Central Railway Company was incorporated under the law of the State of Kansas on June 1, 1871, to build a railroad and telegraph line from Leavenworth, Kansas to the western Kansas boundary.  It was began construction in 1871 and opened for operation to Holton, in 1872, a distance of 55.3 miles, and on to Onaga in December of 1877, an additional distance of 27 miles.

It was built as a narrow gauge (3 feet wide) road railroad because the owners thought the issue would pass easier if the cost per mile was less. Hard times and strikes were common and on April 15, 1879, all of the property, rights, and franchises of this company were sold under foreclosure to Cornelius K. Garrrison and Leonard T. Smith.  They immediately transferred all of the property to the Kansas Central Railroad Company.

The Kansas Central had reached Garrison in western Pottawatomie County by the end of July, 1880 and waited for money to be raised to built a bridge across the Blue River.  Many thought this would be the end of the Kansas Central, but in the spring of 1881 money was raised and they began to built the bridge.

On February 15, 1881 a post office was established on the Lucien Kilbourne farm in central Riley County.  They named it Alembic, after Alembic, Michigan, the home town of Lucien's wife Helen.  To the east of the Kilbourne farm was a farm owned by Jonathan Ford and to the south was a farm owned by Lambert Erpelding.  Erpelding lived in Chicago, but had sent his three young sons, Frank, George, and John here to farm the land.

Having a railroad would be a great asset to an area and generally a profitable asset.  But there was no city near their property to lure a railroad. So the Erpeldings persuaded the Kilbournes and the Fords into giving part of their farm land and to plat a new town site. The Erpeldings also persuaded the president of the Kansas Central Railway, Leonard Smith, to build his railroad through their new city.  In return the new city would give every other city lot to the railway company, to help them raise money for the railway construction.  They also  promised to name the new city, Leonard, in honor of the railway's president. So in September of 1881 the new site for the city of Leonard was platted.

During the summer of 1881, construction on the railroad had begun again and the tracks were built across Riley County first up Walnut Creek valley, then through Walsburg. During the first week of October of 1881 the tracks were laid through Leonard (Alembic).  The new railroad brought much excitement, people and business and the new city became a "boom town" for several years.

The railroad continued on west through Lastia and Green and reached Clay Center by Christmas 1881.  On April 1, 1882, it was completed to the Miltonvale terminal, 165 miles from Leavenworth, but no attempt ever seemed to be made to extend the line any further, although plans called for another 300 miles.

The line was widened to standard gauge in 1890. In 1897 the Kansas Central Railroad was sold under foreclosure proceedings to the Leavenworth, Kansas and Western (LK&W) Railway Company.  In 1908, it was again sold, this time to the Union Pacific Railroad Company.  In March 1935, the U.P. disbanded the LK&W from Knox, a station near Leavenworth, to Clay Center.  When the LK&W closed twenty-four towns along the line were left without train service.

Before this the only railroad in Riley County was the Kansas Pacific Railroad that was built through Manhattan and Ogden in 1866.

The Blue Valley Railroad was built along the west side of the Blue River north from Manhattan to the town of Stockdale in 1881 and continued north and reached Randolph and Cleburne by 1885.  This railroad was discontinued in 1958 with the building of Tuttle Creek Dam.

The last railroad built through Riley County was the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific, built in 1887 from Manhattan westward through Keats, Riley and Bala.  This line was discontinued in the early 1980's.


The Leonardville Depot

On the left side of the sign says: Leavenworth 128.3 miles, on the right side
it says: Miltonvale 37.2 miles and in the middle it says:
Leonardville Elevation 1375 feet.


The Little Kansas Wiggler

The  Kansas Central Railway started as a narrow gauge in 1871.
Later it was sold and and became part of the Union Pacific.
In 1890 it was widen to sta
ndard guage and renamed the

Leavenworth, Kansas and Western Railway
aka, the L. K.&W.

It ran from Leavenworth to Miltonvale and was a total of 165 miles in length.
During construction the route tried to maintain its way staying on the high ground as much as possible to avoid building trestles to save money and time.
It tied together over 25 towns of various sizes along its path.
This gave the railroad a rather meandering route as it made its way toward western Kansas.

 Over the years people have bestowed upon the L.K.&W.  several "nicknames" for its meandering ways and unpredictability of its arrival.

 Some of the are:

Little Kansas Wiggler

Lord Knows When

Look, Kuss & Wait

Leave Kansas & Walk

Leave Kar & Walk

Lazy, Krooked, & Wandering

 If you know of any others, please let us know.